From Tony Osauzo, Benin
Edo State based Chinese firm, Yongxing Steel Company, has called on foreign investors to take advantage of Nigeria’s growing economy to invest in the country.
Managing Director of the Company, Mr. Frank Wang, who made the call at an interactive meeting with journalists at the Company premesis at Ogua Village, near Benin, said his firm had so far created 700 direct employment as well as 10,000 indirect jobs.
He pointed out that investors who were hesitant in investing in the Nigerian economy at this period, stood to lose and regret such stance in the future, with the potential of the nation’s construction industry.
Represented by the company’s spokesman, Mr, Ben Den, Wang expressed the firm’s willingness to support the country, adding that challenges in Nigeria were not enough reason for investors not to take advantage of her huge population and the growing economy to invest in the country.
“I want to use this opportunity to encourage other foreign investors not to run away from Nigeria. There is no economy that does not have difficulties. Our duty is to support the nation in her efforts to surmount those difficulties.
“Those of us in the construction sector, we need to be more patient with Nigeria. Nigeria is a growing economy and will continue to grow.
“With the huge infrastructural gap in the country, the construction sector will continue to grow and any foreign investor in that sector is not likely to regret at the end,” he said.
The Managing Director disclosed that the firm’s waste to wealth programme had created hundreds of employment opportunities while also ensuring a cleaner environment.
“As many of you are aware, the basic raw materials for our production come from things which are otherwise problem in the environment.
“We empower people to gather these waste materials that litter the whole environment, we pay for them, we use technology to recycle them and produce some of the best steel products that are used in the construction industry.
“That way, we are not only creating employment, we are cleaning the environment, and we are contributing immensely to the construction sector which is very vital to a growing economy like Nigeria”, Wang added.
He, however, attributed the success story of the company which stated business in 2013 to the support of stakeholders, particularly the staff and the host community.
“We place premium on the welfare of our workers just as we have in our own little ways contributed to the development of our host community through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
“As for the staff, we have ensure regular training within and outside the country, provision of shelter, health insurance programme and provision of safety environment to work.
“For the community, we have built markets stores, provision of water and giving out palliative from time to time”, the Managing Director further stated.
On the contentious issue of unionism in the company, Wang noted that the management was willing to unionise the workers as “soon as they indicate interest in that and put themselves together for such a purpose”.
“As a company, we are opened to advice. We place premium on the welfare of the workers here and that is why we established the monthly, quarterly and yearly reward system that has seen some of the workers traveling to China for a period of three weeks”, Wang added.
Also speaking at the session, the Enogie (duke) of Ogua, Chief Ogie Aghaghowen, commended the steel company for creating an economy environment and also for ensuring peace in Ogua community.
“Not that we don’t have issues at all, but we have a way of resolving it,” he stated.
Drama however ensued when two factions of the Company’s workers expressed divergent views on the issue unionism.
Vice President, Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria, Comrade Emos Iorsang, told journalists that “The issue we have with the company is that the management is maltreating us. When any factory accident occur, the management will not care.
Since 2013 it started operation, workers do not have letters of appointment.
“We are treated casuals. We are calling on the parent body to come to our aid because since August 19, the company locked us out simply because we demanded unionism to prevent maltreatment”.
But another staff, Mustapha Mohammed, said “We don’t want union because everything we want is being provided by the company. Unions are civil society organisations who come to cause trouble. They want to come and destroy the company”.
Meanwhile, Comrade Kassim Kadiri, National Secretary of National Union of Steel and Engineering Workers of Nigeria, has hinted that Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State had set up a committee to look into the issue of unionism in the company.
Kadiri, while responding to enquiries on the issues surrounding unionising the workers of the iron construction company, said that the national body “got to know about the company in 2013, and we have tried to unionise the place, but what they did was to organize some workers inside the company, who said that they don’t want a union. We wanted to meet the management, but they kept turning us around until 2014 when we declared Trade Dispute against the management”.
“Along the line, the Ministry of Labour in Edo State intervened. One Mr. Igbiniovia was one sent by the ministry to mediate. In 2O15, We signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the parties.
Among the agreement reached: (a) recognition of the union by the company(b ) was that the management and the union should sit and discuss, so that union can be formally inaugurated. The management didn’t honor this agreement until we declared another trade dispute in 2018. So by some intervention, they agreed to meet us again.
“At that meeting, the management arranged about 20 workers (supervisors) who met us and said they don’t want a union. So we left them until 2021 when some workers came to us in Lagos and said we should come and unionise them.
“So when we came to Benin for the purpose, the management said the MD has been away since the COVID-19 period. Even during the COVID-19 period, they did not allow anybody to go home they were locked up in the dormitory for months. On the 14th of September, 2021 the workers held an election, and officers were elected. So the next morning, they transferred the elected chairman to Kano, because they have a warehouse, where they gather scraps in Kano.
“The governor of Edo State has intervened and set up a committee to mediate, through the committee it was discovered that none of the 900 workers there have employment letters. And we have been confronting them since”, Kadiri stated.
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